A recent court order requiring disclosure of the South African COVID-19 vaccine procurement contracts has caused a stir in social media and raised hopes that some of the secret clauses offering special protection to manufacturers might finally be revealed. The Romanian Member of the European Parliament Cristian Terhes, who has long criticized Ursula von der Leyen and the EU Commission for publishing heavily redacted versions of the EU’s own procurement contracts, hailed the ruling in a tweet as a “huge win for transparency & accountability,” pointing, in particular, to the inclusion of the all-important “Pfizer” contract among the documents to be released.
But why the excitement? The EU’s own procurement contract or Advanced Purchase Agreement (APA) with the consortium of Pfizer and the German company BioNTech has been available online in unredacted form for well over two years now: since, more precisely, April 2021, just shortly after vaccine rollout. It does indeed contain hair-raising clauses, which would undoubtedly have provoked massive opposition and “vaccine hesitancy” had they been more widely known.

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